Tuesday, July 19, 2005

After the bombs

Violence continues unabated in Iraq; there are bombs in tourist resorts in Turkey and elsewhere. But a relative calm has returned to London. There are still big disruptions on some Underground lines, including my own normal route in to work, but people seem to be coping. The low level of road traffic, thanks to the school holidays, helps. In order to avoid the delay-ridden Piccadilly, I am still driving to South Ruislip to take the Central Line, not a long journey, but much easier without the school run cars. There are more announcements about security than before and we continue to have the "assurance" of extra police standing about. However much the trains may fill - and they certainly do - there is no conversation between strangers. I have never heard anyone challenge anyone else about their luggage.

The Muslim "community" is under pressure to condemn the bombers and to "root out" extremists. Very few commentators have pointed out that the word "community" is not only wrong in this context but utterly misleading. There are many varieties of Islam, just as there are huge divisions within Christianity and Judaism, and the idea that young Muslim Britons immigrating to, say, Bolton, from Pakistan have much in common with third generation Bengalis in Southall is as daft as thinking that I, third generation Liberal Jew, have much in common with the ultra Orthodox Charedi Jews in Stamford Hill. Equally misplaced is the idea that young people pay much attention to the wise words of Imams and other leaders.

The one thing that does really grate though, are the apologists for the bombers who say that it is okay because Muslims are angry. We hear a lot about this so-called anger. It is unbelievably selective. There is no anger about Algerian extremists massacring villagers. There is no anger about the Iraqi suicide bombers targeting the ordinary people of Iraq. Bombs in Kashmir? Fine. Bombs in Turkey? Yep, right on. But anger at the "West"? Yes, that excuses anything. There was a bloke on Today on Radio 4 this morning, Mohammed Umar, saying just that. He wouldn't condemn the London Bombers. Sounding uncannily like Tony Blair in his best "look, okay, I believed in WMD" mood, he wanted us all to accept that the bombs had happened, they were real, we should understand it was caused by righteous anger and move on. Is anyone else allowed to be righteously angry? Nope. We seem to be back in medieval Europe where the Church could argue that God is love and the righteous may use extreme violence in his holy name against anyone they deem to be unrighteous. It took several hundred years for Christianity to realise the stupidity of this argument and Islam, younger by nearly six hundred years, seems to be still fascinated by it.

Are we at war with terrorists? Seems like it. So why not intern their supporters "for the duration", as was the case in the Second World War? Then they can be as angry as they like, and the rest of us - including the vast majority of the Muslim "community" - can get on with our lives, including expressing our wills through lawful political protest and throwing out a Government that wilfully lied to its people as a pretext to war.

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